The Troika of Sociology, Political Science and Economics
Edited by Gert Tingaard Svendsen and Gunnar Lind Haase Svendsen
Chapter 10: Social Capital in East-Central Europe
* Natalia Letki Introduction Transformation in East-Central Europe (ECE) is now almost 18 years old. It has been an unprecedented event, due to its unexpectedness, but also its complexity. One of the key questions asked about the direction of changes in the post-communist states has been whether the transformation process was one of the ECE states simply ‘catching up’ with the mature Western democracies, or whether historical, cultural and political heritage created speciﬁc circumstances which would lead to diﬀerent mechanisms than those observed in stable Western democracies. The former – ‘modernization’ – approach seemed to have prevailed, as almost all theories created on the basis of observation of mature democracies were being applied to ECE, with varying degrees of sensitivity. Social capital was among them. When the concept of social capital swept the academic world in the early 1990s, it became popular in the new post-communist democracies of EastCentral Europe as well. In many ways, it was a continuation of an already decade-long discussion of the importance of civil society for the quality of politics and economics. The concept of social capital, and social trust in particular, has been present in the research on post-communist transformation since. However, while the causes and consequences of trust and associational activism have been thoroughly examined in the stable context of Western democracies, the research on new democracies is rather more patchy. Research and recommendations from the leading social capital scholars point to the importance of building civic activism and interpersonal trust in transition, but...
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